Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
My cat, Buster, is a five-year old Bengal. I got him when he was about a year old and he was in very poor health; he was too skinny, he had ear mites and eye “boogers,” and he wasn’t neutered. I got all of that taken care of immediately, and the vet cleaned his teeth, but his breath got bad after a while. I took him back for another dental cleaning, but after about a month his breath started to stink again. I have another cat, Moses, and they both eat the same thing — 75% dry food and 25% canned. Moses’ breath is absolutely fine, and it always has been. I tried some homeopathic breath drops on Buster, but he just foams and the mouth and spits it out. He really hates it! It cost prohibitive for me to get his teeth cleaned every month or so. What do you think is going on?
Siouxsie: Bad breath can have many causes, John, and the most common of these is dental disease. We hope that your vet took a good look at Buster’s mouth while he was unconscious for his cleaning, and eliminated any dental-related issues.
Thomas: But cats’ breath can stink for other reasons including chronic infections. Mama says that humans can get bad breath if they have sinus infections or tonsilitis. If Buster came to you with an upper respiratory infection, he may not have fully fought it off. We’d recommend asking your vet if this is a possibility.
Kissy: Bad breath can also be caused by gastrointestinal problems. If Buster has a tummy bug or if there’s an obstruction like a hairball or a growth, this may lead to stinky breath.
Siouxsie: So there are lots of possible causes, John, and because we’re not vets, the only thing we can suggest is that you take Buster to your vet and ask what might be causing this problem.
Thomas: Cats shouldn’t have stinky breath, and their mouths certainly shouldn’t reek a month after a dental cleaning!
Kissy: As for the homeopathic breath drops, the ones we looked up certainly had plenty of very bitter ingredients that would make a kitty foam at the mouth. Yecch!
Siouxsie: If your vet gives Buster a thorough exam and doesn’t find anything organic that could be causing his bad breath, you may want to learn how to brush his teeth. It’s a lot less expensive than a dental cleaning!
Thomas: This video from Cornell University Vet School’s Partners in Animal Health Program provides a four-week program to get your cat used to having his teeth brushed.
Kissy: Don’t you get any ideas, Mama! *hiss*
Siouxsie: Bad breath can be a sign of certain serious health problems. John, we’re sure this isn’t the case with Buster, especially since he’s been having regular vet visits, but we want to share this information for the benefit of our other readers.
Thomas: A cat with very sweet or fruity breath — or possibly, breath that smells like nail polish remover — may have diabetes.
Kissy: A cat whose breath smells like pee may have kidney disease.
Siouxsie: An unusually foul odor accompanied by vomiting, lack of appetite, and yellow-tinged eyes and/or gums could signal a liver problem.
Thomas: We hope this helps, John, and please let us know how you and Buster are doing.
My cat, Matthew, has bad breath. He goes to the vet twice a year and has had his teeth cleaned at least three times since I have owned him, he’s been with me since 2008. My other cat has normal breath. They both eat the same thing. The vet couldn’t find anything wrong with Matthew.
My cat has the same problem but he hasn’t always had it, it came on more recently. It turned out to be a dental infection.
Nice exhaustive article on a cat having bad breath.
I like that you came up with all of the likely causes. I especially like that you described how each cause might manifest – specific breath odor, color of gums or eyes and so on.
Those are all very helpful indicators of what is causing bad breath.
You really covered all the bases.
I agree that the solution is to take it seriously and bring kitty to the vet.
Only other cause I can come up with if it isn’t a dental or medical issue is water intake. You did mention that the food was 75% dry food. Dehydration may be the cause – from not drinking enough water to not having enough wet food verses dry food. It’s worth monitoring and adjusting to see how it goes.
=^-^= Hairless Cat Girl =^-^=
We just rescued a 3 year old female cat who has the silent meow.her breed is propably a mix.she has a tiger colors. We looked at her teeth and they are white but she would not allow us to stay in there for more than 15 seconds.it just does not seem right. We had to put down our 19 yearold whose breath smelled but not as bad as our 3 yr. old. She has been on the “wellness”food in the shelter for a yr. ANd the 7 days that we had her. We also noticed when she is resting with eyes closed there is a mild noise that sounds like a light “hmmm” until she opens her eyes.she is a small cat . Your thoughts please?